Fat is probably the most widely misunderstood macronutrient.
On the one side, some people try to avoid eating fatty foods as much as possible.
Others feast on it, and there are even individuals who put whole sticks of butter in their coffee.
In truth, there’s a right and a wrong way to consume dietary fats.
This article will look at how to get healthy fats into your diet by listing eleven of the most healthy and nutrient-dense fats.
The Difference Between Healthy and Unhealthy Fats
First of all, it’s better to avoid ultra-processed sources of fat such as trans fat and polyunsaturated vegetable oils.
On the other hand, we have natural cold-pressed fats and oils such as extra virgin olive oil, butter, and coconut oil.
While I would much prefer these fats to the industrially produced oils, I still don’t think we should be consuming them in significant amounts.
They offer a concentrated source of fat and perhaps a few vitamins or polyphenols – but little more.
In contrast, primarily consuming fat from whole foods gives us significant amounts of nutrients—vitamins and minerals—too.
Now, let’s take a look at eleven excellent whole-food sources of dietary fat.
Salmon is one of the most nutrient-dense foods from the sea, and it has the bonus of tasting great too.
Also, wild salmon provides a particularly good source of;
- Fat: 8.1g (SFA: 1.3g, MUFA: 2.7g, PUFA: 3.3g)
- Selenium – 103% RDA
- Niacin (Vitamin B3) – 78% RDA
- Vitamin B12 – 78% RDA
- Vitamin B6 – 73% RDA
- Riboflavin (B2) – 44% RDA
- Phosphorus – 39% RDA
- Potassium – 28% RDA
- Thiamin (B1) – 28% RDA
- Copper – 25% RDA
- Magnesium – 14% RDA
- Folate – 11% RDA
Salmon also contains a potent antioxidant compound called astaxanthin, which is responsible for the orange/red color of the fish.
Overall, it’s one of the best sources of fat, good for you, and delicious.
It may surprise you, but almonds are not nuts. Technically speaking, they are the seed of the almond tree fruit.
However, whether nuts or seeds, they are an incredibly nutrient-dense source of healthy fat.
Per 1oz serving, almonds provide (5);
- Fat – 13.8g (SFA: 1.0g, MUFA: 8.6g, PUFA: 3.4g)
- Vitamin E – 37% RDA
- Manganese – 32% RDA
- Magnesium – 19% RDA
- Riboflavin (B2) – 17% RDA
- Phosphorus – 14% RDA
- Copper – 14% RDA
Almonds also give us a decent source of protein, with 5.9g per oz.
Just one thing to be aware of; look out for raw almonds, as some of the other versions are roasted in vegetable oil.
The humble egg is truly nature’s multivitamin and contains almost every vitamin and mineral going.
Eggs are also so adaptable, and there are numerous ways you can make them that taste completely different.
Don’t like boiled eggs? Fine – then try a cheese omelet!
Three large eggs provide substantial amounts of (8);
- Fat – 15g (SFA: 4.5g, MUFA: 5.7g, PUFA: 2.1g)
- Selenium – 69% RDA
- Riboflavin (B2) – 42% RDA
- Vitamin B12 – 33% RDA
- Phosphorus – 30% RDA
- Vitamin A – 15% RDA
- Iron – 15% RDA
- Vitamin D – 12% RDA
- Vitamin B6 – 12% RDA
- Zinc – 12% RDA
Significantly, eggs also provide a dose of dietary choline.
Along with other traditional foods like organ meats and shellfish, egg yolks are a significant source of choline (11).
Similar to salmon, sardines are also one of the best dietary sources of omega-3.
That’s not all, though.
Sardines contain the bones and organs of the fish, so they offer extra benefits through their calcium and vitamin content.
Per 100g serving, sardines provide (12);
- Fat – 11.5g (SFA: 1.5g, MUFA: 3.9g, PUFA: 5.1g)
- Vitamin B12 – 149% RDA
- Selenium – 75% RDA
- Vitamin D – 68% RDA
- Phosphorus – 49% RDA
- Calcium – 38% RDA
- Niacin (B3) – 26% RDA
- Iron – 16% RDA
- Riboflavin (B2) – 13% RDA
- Potassium – 11% RDA
- Magnesium – 10% RDA
- Vitamin E – 10% RDA
Overall, sardines are a healthy form of fat which are also high in protein (about 25% by weight).
You can buy them in a can for a reasonable price, and they have many health benefits.
Steak; perhaps it’s the best-tasting food on this list.
It’s also very nutritionally dense, and a chuck eye steak provides the following nutrients per 8oz (225g) steak (13);
- Fat – 23.2g (SFA: 8.8g, MUFA: 9.6g, PUFA: 0.8g)
- Vitamin B12 – 192% RDA
- Zinc – 104% RDA
- Selenium – 96% RDA
- Vitamin B6 – 40% RDA
- Niacin (B3) – 40% RDA
- Phosphorus – 40% RDA
- Iron – 32% RDA
- Riboflavin (B2) – 32% RDA
- Vitamin B5: 24% RDA
- Potassium – 16% RDA
- Copper – 16% RDA
- Thiamin (B1) – 16% RDA
Perhaps surprisingly to many, steak is very rich in nutrients, and it also provides a healthy source of fat.
Isn’t Fat in Meat Harmful?
Despite a lot of negative press about saturated fats, the primary fat source in steak is oleic acid (14).
Oleic acid is a type of monounsaturated fat found in foods like meat, olives, and avocados, and it’s often purported to be a “heart healthy” fat.
Furthermore, there is no real evidence to suggest that whole food sources of saturated fat are harmful.
Cook steak somewhere between raw and medium for maximal health benefits – it’s tastier that way too!
It’s not hard to hear someone discussing the health benefits of extra virgin olive oil.
Whether it’s on TV, an Internet article, in the newspaper, or just office chat… most people know olives provide a healthy oil.
However, for even more benefits—and nutrients—perhaps it is better to go to the source and eat whole olives?
A 2oz serving of olives provides around (17);
- Fat – 6g (SFA: 0.8g, MUFA: 4.4g, PUFA: 0.6g)
Furthermore, there is also some dietary fiber and trace amounts of vitamins and minerals.
Despite widespread beliefs that olives are a vegetable, they’re a fruit. Along with durian and avocado, this makes them unique as a high-fat fruit.
Systematic reviews show that olives have a range of health-protective effects. For instance, randomized controlled trials show that olive polyphenols enhance HDL, insulin sensitivity, and protect against the oxidation of LDL (18, 19, 20).
7. Dark Chocolate
Your typical bar of Cadbury’s or Hershey’s isn’t exactly health food.
However, the darker varieties of chocolate offer an impressive nutritional profile and a range of polyphenol antioxidants.
Per ounce, the nutritional profile of cocoa powder looks like this (21);
- Fat – 3.8g (SFA: 2.3g, MUFA: 1.3g, PUFA: 0.1g)
- Manganese – 54% RDA
- Copper – 53% RDA
- Magnesium – 35% RDA
- Iron – 22% RDA
- Phosphorus – 21% RDA
- Potassium – 12% RDA
As shown above, even in such a small serving size, cocoa is extremely mineral dense.
Consuming a dark chocolate bar in the 85% or above region will get you close to these nutrient values. Also, the better quality bars contain cacao butter too – which expands the fat content.
However, lower quality bars often use vegetable oil substitutes for cacao butter such as shea oil and palm oil.
On the positive side, dark chocolate has several known positive impacts on health.
8. Hard (Aged) Cheese
Cheese is one of the tastiest foods in the world.
It’s also very convenient, and it can be used in various dishes or just by itself as a quick snack.
Out of all cheese, the aged varieties—such as vintage cheddar, parmesan, and gruyère—are particularly healthful.
Cheese is extremely high in fat, and here is the nutritional profile of cheddar cheese per 2oz serving (24);
- Fat – 18.6g (SFA: 11.8g, MUFA: 5.2g, PUFA: 0.6g)
- Calcium – 40% RDA
- Phosphorus – 28% RDA
- Zinc – 12% RDA
- Riboflavin (B2) – 12% RDA
- Selenium – 12% RDA
Unfortunately, due to the fears surrounding saturated fat, cheese has been seen as a dietary villain over the past few decades.
Although some fats can be bad for you, the fat in cheese certainly isn’t.
In fact, recent studies show that dairy fat can be health-protective.
Recent Studies on Cheese
- In an 8-week randomized controlled trial of 153 participants, 80g cheese per day reduced cholesterol and led to a significant reduction in triglycerides (25).
- A 2017 meta-analysis shows no association between long-term cheese consumption and mortality (26).
- Systematic reviews and randomized controlled trials demonstrate that cheese consumption either lowers or sees no change to LDL, blood pressure, and triglyceride levels. In contrast, HDL either stays the same or rises (27, 28, 29).
9. Chia Seeds
Compared to all the other foods on this list, I find it hard to get excited about chia seeds.
For me, they just don’t taste all that good. However, these seeds are a nutrient-dense food high in healthy fats, so here they are.
Per 1oz serving, they provide significant amounts of (30);
- Fat – 8.6g (SFA: 0.9g, MUFA: 0.6g, PUFA: 6.5g)
- Manganese – 30% RDA
- Magnesium – 28% RDA
- Phosphorus – 27% RDA
- Iron – 25% RDA
- Calcium – 18% RDA
Chia seeds also provide a decent source of fiber and protein.
How to Eat Chia Seeds?
Putting chia seeds in liquid overnight is a good way to prepare them.
You can use either flavored water, yogurt, milk, blended berry smoothies, or any other ideas you might have.
Overnight, the chia seeds turn the liquid into a gelatinous gel which you can eat with a spoon.
10. Beef Ribs
Beef ribs are delicious and a healthy source of fat, protein, and various vitamins and minerals.
Per 100g, they provide the following (31);
- Fat – 32.4g (SFA: 13.4g, MUFA: 14.1g, PUFA: 1.1g)
- Vitamin B12 – 47% RDA
- Selenium – 40% RDA
- Zinc – 35% RDA
- Phosphorus – 17% RDA
- Niacin (B3) – 16% RDA
- Vitamin B6 – 15% RDA
- Iron – 12% RDA
- Riboflavin (B2) – 11% RDA
Bone-in cuts of meat like beef ribs also include connective tissue, potentially making them a decent dietary source of collagen.
Cooking for a longer period is important to get enough gelatin, so using a slow cooker for this works well.
If you aren’t specifically looking for gelatin, then grilled ribs are a tasty option. Marinating them in a bit of garlic, butter, salt, and red wine vinegar tastes great.
Avocado is another fruit that’s high in fat, and it’s also a powerhouse for potassium.
Crammed full of beneficial nutrients, a typical avocado provides significant amounts of (32);
- Fat – 29.5g (SFA: 4.3g, MUFA: 19.7g, PUFA: 3.7g)
- Vitamin K – 52% RDA
- Folate – 41% RDA
- Vitamin C – 33% RDA
- Vitamin B5 – 28% RDA
- Potassium – 28% RDA
- Vitamin B6 – 26% RDA
- Vitamin E – 21% RDA
- Copper – 19% RDA
- Magnesium – 15% RDA
- Niacin (B3) – 17% RDA
- Riboflavin (B2) – 15% RDA
- Manganese – 14% RDA
- Phosphorus – 10% RDA
As we can see, avocados contain a wide variety of beneficial vitamins and minerals.
With the general public realizing the importance of healthy fats, avocados have been exploding in popularity over recent years.
From being spread on toast to mashed into guacamole-based dips, people are using them in many different ways.
Avocados are not only tasty, but they also have proven health benefits.
When it comes to our body and health, fats are our friend.
Some of the most nutritious foods in the world contain significant amounts of fat….and large quantities of vitamins and minerals too.
That’s no mistake.
Including some of these foods in your diet ensures you’ll be getting beneficial nutrients as well as great taste.
If you’re looking for some information on nutrient-dense carbs, then see this guide here.